Busiest place is town at six-thirty in the morning is often the fish pier.
One or two fishing boats getting ready to put out or coming back in with nets full can stir up more noise and activity than you'll encounter on half a city block, and that's not even including the flocking sea gulls whose calls and whole purpose in life were brilliantly summed up by whoever wrote their lines in Finding Nemo: "Mine? Mine? Mine?"
Took my coffee down there this morning and drank it leaning on the rail of the observation deck half a story up from the water and the docks. Unable to see far to the east because of the hot glare of the low sun or to the north where haze hid Pleasant Bay.
Turns out it's a quiet morning. There's only boat tied up at the pier on which there are any signs of life. The Lady Ocean. And from the looks of things she has unloaded her catch and is preparing to finish for the day. But off to my left a man appears from out behind the prow of the Coast Guard patrol boat wading out to a buoy. He unhooks a line and drags a small skiff in. A few minutes later he reappears at the tiller of the skiff, riding standing up.
The man is about 40, with a thick head of graying blond hair and a bulldog chin. He's wearing narrow shades and a weathered pink t-shirt over olive shorts and sand-colored waders. Husky guy with a big gut. He pilots the skiff around the fish pier and over to the dock on the far side where his partner waits with their gear. Red pickup the partner's unloaded backed up onto the dock. Partner looks a few years older, thinner but bald on top, with his own prodigious gut. Gray hair on the sides of his hair cut very close. Wearing a red t-shirt, khaki shorts, same style and sand-colored waders as his friend.
The first man ties up the skiff and climbs onto the dock. Walks---his walk part waddle and part swagger: a swaddle? A wagger?---his stubby arms swinging, over to the pick-up to move it into the lot where---I'm not kidding, I counted---twenty-six other pickups belonging to the fishermen and clammers already out on the water are parked. The second man climbs down into the skiff and starts pulling gear from the dock to him and lowering it into the skiff. Gear includes two big black chests and a channel marker on a long aluminum pole with a four-bladed anchor on the end with a sharp point that makes it look like a combination missile and harpoon, as if designed for hunting whales from a fighter plane. As far as I can see the gear does not include clam rakes or fishing rods. They're probably headed for their boat and I'm guessing they're lobster men about to spend the morning pulling traps, because of the channel marker and the fact there are only two of them. I think a trawler needs a larger crew.
Ok, thanks for sticking with me because here comes the point of this sketch.
Loaded up the men set out in their skiff and it's the skiff itself that is the whole reason I paid such close attention, because it was the ugliest, most beat-up, most unseaworthy-looking craft I've ever seen---rusted, pock-marked, dented and scratched and scraped, fore to aft, and...
It had no prow.
I mean the front end of the skiff was gone, ripped away as if a bite had been taken out of it by Moby Dick!
I don't know how it stayed afloat while tied up. The only reason I could see that it wasn't taking on water as they rode out is that their weight in the stern kept the bow end lifted several inches.
Neither man seemed to be worried. The first man back standing at the tiller and the second man standing just ahead of him, both staring straight out to sea, and looking, and for all I know feeling, proud and determined as whalers of old putting out from their ship into a pod of bowheads, they rode out towards where their lobster boat waited and I lost sight of them in the glare.